Tag Archives: Home Care

Identifying as a Caregiver

Currently in the United States, over 44 million Americans spend on average 20 hours per week caring for a loved one whether it’s a family member or a close friend. This care ranges from doing a few helpful things like preparing an extra meal or helping with shopping and house cleaning to more personal chores like bathing, toileting, dispensing medications and helping with medical matters. According to AARP, it’s family caregivers who provide over 75% of the unpaid “informal” care to those who need it. This amounts to an incredible 37 billion hours of unpaid care. For many caregivers the journey to caregiving is slow and gradual as they take on more and more of the daily responsibilities of helping a loved one age comfortably in their own home. For others, the route to “caregiver” happens in a tragic instant after their loved one faces a medical crisis. The average caregiver provides personal care and performs household maintenance chores for at least twelve hours a week for an average of 4.3 years. Despite all these figures, caregivers don’t see themselves as such. They view themselves as daughters or sons helping out or temporarily stepping in after some crisis. They’re doing what’s considered to be the norm as a loving family member. Yet this is all done despite the fact that they are juggling their own personal family life and a job. They can be certain of one thing – the caregiving doesn’t get easier. It generally gets more complicated and takes up more and more of their limited time. Eventually there is a price to be paid. The ever-growing burden of caregiving often results in stress related illness, emotional or mental health problems, and stressed family relations. For these reasons, it’s important for family caregivers to identify themselves as such. If you don’t think of yourself as a “caregiver”, you probably won’t take the next step of looking for support and information to help you along your journey. Fortunately, help is out there. A good starting point would be a family meeting to identify your loved ones needs and problems and to develop a plan for sharing responsibilities. There are many caregiver support groups, some of them on-line, that offer educational information and emotional support. You can connect with others who are also dealing with the same issues that you are facing. Adult respite care is available whether through a senior center or a home care agency. This would give you a temporary mental and physical break. So recognize your role and realize you are not alone and know that YOU ARE A CAREGIVER. Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com


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When It’s Time for Home Care

There are a lot of guides available to help you decide if someone you care about has reached the point of needing outside help. If you do a web search for “time for home care”, an incredible list of sites appears with all kinds of signs to look for in your aging parent or loved one that will signal their need for help with daily living. These clues include poor personal hygiene, difficulty managing daily living activities such as housework and grocery shopping, missed appointments, and problems taking medications as prescribed. Although these clues are certainly important when deciding if you should look to professional help for your loved one, a consideration that is often overlooked is YOU.

If you’ve been your loved one’s primary caregiver, you need to assess your own condition also. According to the Family Caregiving Alliance there are over 44 million unpaid caregivers in America and they are definitely paying a price. The effects of being a caregiver are both psychological and physical. The strain of caring for a friend or relative who is frail or elderly causes significant clinical symptoms of depression in 40%-70% of all unpaid caregivers. Take some time to think about yourself. Do you feel stressed all the time? Do you feel frustrated, angry or hopelessly drained at the end of the day? Are you no longer in control of your own life? Are you becoming more isolated and do you continue to maintain social contact with friends and relatives … when did you last have some “me time”? Are all the hours of your day filled with obligations to your job, your family, and your loved one?

How are you doing physically? The stress felt caring for someone long term has been linked to elevated blood pressure, a compromised immune system, and heart disease. Is your blood pressure up? Do you seem to catch every cold or bug that comes your way? Caregivers typically don’t have time to take care of their own health needs. Do you get regular checkups with your doctor and your dentist? Do you take the time to prepare nutritious meals for yourself or to get some exercise? Do you have insomnia or stomach complaints? Do you actually feel guilty if on some rare occasion you take the time to enjoy a former hobby or interest?

Be careful not to miss the signs of needing help, both in your loved one and most importantly in yourself. Don’t wait for a crisis to happen with the one you care for or with yourself. After all, the best way to help your loved one is to make sure you are at your best. It may be time to get some help. How did you know it was time to get professional help? Share below and vist us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Caregiver at the Doctor Visit

According to the Census Bureau, there are over 43.1 million persons in the United States that are 65 years of age or older. The elderly population is expected to double to 80 million when all the “baby boomers” have reached their elderly years. Due to advances in medical science these baby boomers will be living longer and that translates into huge numbers of people living with chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, or dementia. A large population of chronically ill older people means that more and more seniors will be dependant on others for help with their activities of daily living – in short, they’ll have a caregiver whether it’s a family member or a professional from an agency.

Caregivers are now and will increasingly in the future be an important component of doctor visits for the elderly. According to a study by Jennifer Wolff, PhD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, doctor visits that include caregivers are an increasing trend that has important benefits. Her study showed that visits that included a caregiver lasted at least 20% longer and resulted in less social conversation between the doctor and the senior and more biomedical information being given to the patient. This is really important because a trip to the doctor is all about communication and the exchange of information. Doctors need information from patients to provide an accurate diagnosis and to provide treatment options. The patient needs to be able to clearly discuss and understand what’s going on. This is where the caregiver’s presence can be very valuable.
A caregiver can help the senior with every aspect of the visit beginning with getting ready for the visit by gathering all the necessary medical history information and making a list of current medications and by preparing a list of symptoms for the doctor along with any questions the senior may have. During the visit, the caregiver can make notes for the senior and can remind them of any symptoms they may have forgotten and can relate to the doctor any changes in the senior’s general health and abilities. In effect, the caregiver is a second set of eyes and ears and can request further clarification about the diagnosis, treatment options, and what can be expected down the line. After the visit, a caregiver can support the senior’s compliance with the doctor’s instructions by encouraging them to follow the prescribed course of treatment along with taking their medications as prescribed and by helping them further understand the doctor’s instructions if necessary. This in turn can help reduce possible hospital readmissions.

According to the study by Dr. Wolff, seniors and loved ones who have been accompanied by a caregiver to a doctor ended up being more satisfied with their overall care and were shown to be more likely to remember important information after their visit to the doctor. Please share your thoughts and experiences below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Hiring a Caregiver Privately?

According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, more than 65.7 million Americans provide informal care for a family member or loved one. Most of us come by the role of caregiver gradually. We start by “helping out” when we notice a parent or loved one is having some difficulty taking care of some routine tasks they once managed well. In time our list of responsibilities gets longer and our loved one needs much more help. And then it happens….we see there is so much more to do than we have hours in the day for. Perhaps there’s been a medical crisis or an accident. We realize some outside help is needed.

Once you’ve made the decision to get help, it’s easy to believe all you have to do is hire someone. If you choose to hire someone directly to care for your loved one be sure you know what goes with your new role as employer. This means that now you have switched jobs from “caregiver” to “accountant” because you will now have to take care of payroll and tax requirements since the IRS views you as the caregiver’s employer. According to foxbusiness.com, if the caregiver you hire earns more than $1000 a quarter or over $1900 a year, you’ll have to file payroll taxes including Social Security and Medicare taxes, Federal Unemployment Tax, state unemployment and disability insurance taxes levied on the employer, and advance payments of the earned income credit if your employee is eligible. These thresholds and figures may change yearly so you will need to verify them every year. You also have to know what taxes your employee has to pay and will have to provide a Form W2 to your employee by January 31st of every year. In addition, you’ll need to pay for worker’s compensation and disability insurance in case your caregiver gets hurt while caring for your loved one.

If the caregiver you hire claims to be working as an “independent contractor” and no money should be withheld for any taxes, they are wrong. According to the IRS an independent contractor has total control over their work hours, their responsibilities, and schedules. This does not apply to your employee because the caregiver will be providing the services you want on the schedule and terms you set. Failure on your part to fulfill your accounting duties as the employer of a caregiver will alert the IRS, set you up for an audit, and can even result in compromising your own personal taxes. You’ll have to pay back the unpaid taxes along with interest and possible penalties. Be certain you make the correct decision when hiring a caregiver. Are you prepared to be an accountant in addition to dealing with all the work and responsibility of caring for a loved one? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Flower Shop

I was at the florist last weekend to order flowers for a special occasion. While there I noticed an elderly lady looking over the pots of daffodils and tulips. We struck up a conversation and she confided in me that she needed some flowers to boost her spirits. It has been such a long and cold winter that she just needed a reminder that spring really is coming. As we talked, she told me she could count on one hand how many endless winters like this one she had seen in her ninety two years. After she made her purchase, she asked if I would help her to her car. She had one of those four-pronged canes in one hand and a pot of daffodils in the other. I took the flowers from her and offered her my arm for support as we walked through the door, chatting the whole time and marveling at the warmth of the sunshine. She pointed out her vehicle, a massive old model Grand Marquis. As we approached the car she suddenly exclaimed “Oh no honey, I drove!” I had automatically escorted her to the passenger side, assuming someone had driven her to the florist and was waiting for her in the car. After making our way to the driver’s side she fumbled in her purse for her keys and I helped her get in, loading her daffodils and the cane on the passenger seat. We said our good-byes and I stood in dumbstruck silence noticing a variety of scratches and dents as she drove away. I kept thinking “there’s an accident, just waiting to happen”.

Hopefully, that lovely lady made it home in one piece and without incident. It seems to me that somewhere along the line a family member or friend should talk with her about assessing her driving. As you reach your senior years, at some point you may need to limit your driving or stop altogether. There are so many issues that can limit the ability to drive. Reaction time slows with age and mobility problems can make it difficult to look over your shoulder to change lanes or move your leg back and forth from the gas pedal to the brake. In addition, vision declines leaving many seniors to deal with glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration. Hearing problems would make it harder to hear the warning sounds of honking horns or ambulance sirens. Combinations of medications can affect the senses and reflexes. Everyone ages differently and some can drive later in life than others but if you have a senior in your life, it may be time to assess their driving. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to start that conversation before they got to the flower shop! Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com"

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It’s All About “Me”

The holiday season is finally in full swing and before your know it, we’ll be ushering in the New Year. We’ll be looking at the past year and promising ourselves that this new year will be different. We’ll think of all the things that went wrong and come up with a nice list of changes for the coming year that will make everything so much better. Sound familiar? As caregivers, it’s easy to blame ourselves for anything that might have gone wrong while we cared for our loved one. Did we put our loved one first? Were we attentive to their needs?

I’m sure the list of New Year resolutions will look something like this:
#1. I will get all the sleep and rest I need.
#2. I will do all I can to have a healthy lifestyle.
#3. I’ll ask for and accept all the help I can get.
#4. I will do something every day to de-stress a bit.
#5. I promise to keep up a social life.
#6. I will communicate and share with others who are going through the same experiences I am.
#7. I will use respite care whenever I can.
#8. I will learn all I can about my loved one’s condition.

After looking at all of these resolutions, you can see a common thread. They can all be replaced with an attitude adjustment. As caregivers, we need to shift our concerns to caring for ourselves! Somehow it seems wrong to even say that. We’ve spent an awful lot of time putting someone else’s needs ahead of our own and just thinking about yourself seems so selfish. The thing to remember is that if we aren’t in good shape physically and emotionally, we’ll be ineffective as caregivers and end up being useless to those we care for. This year my goal is to wake up every morning and remind myself that it’s all about me. What resolutions are you making for the new year? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Real Work Begins

Once you’ve made the decision that you or a loved one is going to need some help to remain independently at home, the real work begins. Selecting an agency for yourself or your loved one is not an easy job. There are a lot of options out there but be aware they are not all the same. Before you make your choice, be sure to get the answers to some very important questions.

Are the caregivers who come to your home employees of the agency or are they merely referred by the agency and employed by you? If they are employed by the agency, their employer will take care of collecting all taxes and remitting them to the government. The caregivers will be covered under Workers Compensation insurance if they are hurt on the job. If they are simply referred by the agency, all of these bookkeeping and payroll responsibilities will be yours to handle.

Are the caregivers bonded and insured? Do they have background checks performed on them? Are they screened for drug use? What if you don’t want a smoker in your home?
It’s very important to feel safe when you have someone come into your home. After all, you letting someone into your personal life and you need to feel secure in the knowledge that safety isn’t an issue with them.

How experienced are the caregivers? Do they have any ongoing training? Who does the training? Is there any oversight while they are in your home? Are they supervised by a trained medical professional such as a Registered Nurse? When a caregiver comes into your home you’ll surely want some things done to your own specifications but do you really want to or have time to train someone? If there’s a problem, can you reach management or do you have to wait for regular office hours? Does the agency provide continuity of care by regularly scheduling the same caregiver to your home? What if your caregiver can’t come due to illness or vacation time off? How flexible is the agency with scheduling? If your needs change, will scheduling someone to come to your home be a problem?

When you’ve decided it’s time to get some help, don’t settle on simply checking prices and rates. Go the extra step and do the real work of asking specific questions. The more information you have, the more comfortable you’ll be while making your decision. You won’t regret going the extra mile. What method did you use to select your in-home care? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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On The Way Home From Work

Last evening, on the way home from work, I narrowly escaped a fender bender—not once, but twice. I had come to a stop at a red light while in the inside lane of a four lane road. A moment later, I noticed a bright red sedan with it’s left turn signal on pull past me into the intersection in the lane to my right. My first thought was that the driver had simply forgotten to turn off their turn signal. Fortunately, I hesitated when the light turned green, and then the red sedan cut right across the front of my car and made a left turn in front of me. That momentary hesitation kept my car intact. As she sped off, I noticed the driver of the other car was a very elderly lady whose head was barely visible above her steering wheel. I then cautiously made my turn only to find myself once again traveling next to the same lady. A mile down the road she suddenly sped up and pulled right in front of me and then came to a complete stop with her left turn signal on, once again. She apparently thought she was in the left turn lane which was actually further to the left. I braced myself, expecting to be rear-ended by whoever was behind me. Fortunately, that didn’t happen and I took off, very relieved she had made her turn.

My first instinct was to find a place to turn around and follow her into the parking lot and give her a piece of my mind. That would have served no purpose –I’m sure this isn’t the first time she had pulled a move like that and I’m pretty sure she’s been yelled at before. And then I thought about Mom. She’s in her late 80’s, has had her right hip replaced, walks with a cane, and drives herself pretty much to most places. She only goes to her local grocery store or the mall. Occasionally, she has a doctor appointment or goes to the dentist. And on Sunday she drives to church just a couple blocks away. Once a month there’s a Red Hats Club meeting that she car pools to with a few friends. Since her cataract surgery, she doesn’t drive at night. There a numerous scrapes on her car’s bumpers — it’s amazing how careless other people can be in a parking lot.

Last evening, on the way home from work, I learned a lesson. It’s time to have a meeting with my siblings and find a way to talk to Mom about her driving. Maybe we can convince her to use the local Senior Citizens community bus. If we take turns, we can drive her to appointments without burdening any one family member. Maybe she’d agree to hire someone to take her to appointments. If we present a united front and give her some workable options, maybe she’ll agree to stop driving. Last evening, on the way home from work, I opted to see for the first time, what was right in front of me all along. If you believe someone you love or care for may have issues that affect their ability to safely drive, contact your local Secretary of State to request a driver assessment reevaluation. Have you had to deal with a loved one’s driving issue? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Do A Drug Inventory

If you’re caring for a senior, you should do a drug inventory of their medications a couple of times a year. Even if they are completely capable of taking their own medications as prescribed, this is still a good idea. In fact, it’s something you should do for yourself also. There’s more to taking medications than just popping the pills and washing them down with a glass of water.

First of all, check where the medications are being stored. It’s very common to keep prescription bottles out so that seeing them serves as a reminder to take them. Often this means the drugs are stored on the bathroom counter or in the bathroom medicine chest. Both of these locations are not good for maintaining the quality of the medicine. The heat and humidity can cause the medicines to degrade. Save the medicine chest for storing medical supplies like bandages and cotton balls. Another favorite spot is on the kitchen counter or windowsill . That seems to make sense since that’s where you’d go to get that glass of water to wash them down. If that part of the counter is anywhere near the stove or any other appliance that gives off heat, you’ve got the same problem — heat and humidity. In addition, it’s never a good idea to leave any prescription drugs out in the open where someone else may get easy access to them. Your best bet is to keep all your medications in ONE location, such as in a dresser drawer or kitchen cabinet.

Other precautions you need to take are: If you use one of those handy automatic pill dispensers or organizers with compartments for each day, keep the remaining drugs in their original bottles. The amber or white plastic serves to keep light out. The labels provide important information like dosage, expiration date, and the number of the pharmacy to call for refills. Never leave a new prescription in the car. Locked cars can get very hot and affect the quality of the medications. If the prescription bottle has a cotton plug in it, remove it. The cotton can draw moisture into the container. Make sure to check the expiration date of the prescriptions so that you’re taking something that will do it’s job. Don’t share any prescription drugs with anyone else. Something that worked for you may be deadly for someone else. If you notice any physical change in the medicine’s color, odor, or texture, do not use it even if it hasn’t expired. After the inventory, dispose of the old medications responsibly. Do not flush them down the toilet where they will get into the water system. The easiest thing to do is crush them up, mix in some coffee grounds or kitty litter, and pour them into a small plastic bag. Add a little water to make a gooey mess and put the bag in the trash. What are you doing to stay safe with medications? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Commission On Long-Term Care

The concept of “aging in place” is one of the driving forces in the projected caregiver shortage we will soon be facing in America. Based on a survey conducted by AARP in 2005, over 85 percent of Americans who are 50 years of age and older, want to remain in their own homes as they age. More than anything, they want to keep that sense of independence that comes with the familiarity and routine of being in their own environment. Seniors aging at home have more control over their own lives and a greater say in care they may need as they age. They have a greater sense of community and the ability to stay connected with neighbors and friends. Most seniors see aging in place as a happier, safer, and healthier lifestyle.

Combine this desire with the changing face of the American population and you will see some problems ahead. In the year 2000 there were approximately 35 million baby boomers in America. By the year 2030, that number is expected to double to more than 71 million according to the latest survey by AARP. At this time as much as 80% of the extra care provided to seniors living at home as they age is being provided by unpaid friends and relatives. The problem is that the pool of unpaid workers is getting smaller and smaller because baby boomers didn’t have as many children as earlier generations did. There will be fewer family members to take on the task of caregiving. According to AARP, by 2030 there will be only four potential caregivers for each senior 80 years old or older.
In short, there will be more aging people needing help in their own homes and fewer people available to provide the care.

The federal government has recently appointed a “Commission on Long-Term Care”. The commission has been given the assignment of coming up with a plan to ensure the availability of long term services and supports for people with disabilities and for seniors needing care. By mid September they will need to address the shortage of caregivers and come up with a plan on how to provide and pay for long term care. Stay tuned for updates and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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